Pay to Play: Winning Ways to Hold Community Contests

A unicorn, an unlimited supply of Toaster Strudel and Zac Efron.

When I went in on the Mega Millions in late-March with several co-workers, these were the things I dreamed of purchasing with my cut of the money.

I knew I had a better chance of being pecked to death by a hummingbird than winning the lottery, but I’ve always been lucky and didn’t see any reason why this would change. Few people win Bingo twicein one night and a free burrito their first time at Chipotle, after all. Surely the lottery was next.

 Tickets in hand, I prepared myself for the moment our numbers were drawn. Things would change, but I didn’t want to be like some of those lottery winners who go bankrupt or develop a pain-pill addiction.

No, I would still be the same me—just a little heavier from the pastries and a little happier from Zac Efron. (Seriously, ladies, have you see the trailer for “The Lucky One?” Those shoulders are as broad as a Buick.)

Zac in tow, I’d ride off into the sunset on my unicorn, eating Toaster Strudel like M&Ms.

Unfortunately, someone else went home with my money. Sad—yet fair.

But what about a lottery in the apartment industry—is that fair? According to Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions™, it’s not.

As an apartment marketing professional, it’s important to understand the differences between a contest, a sweepstakes and a lottery—because while the first two are legal, a lottery is not.

When defining the differences, there are three elements to consider: chance, consideration and prize. If two are correctly included, your promotion is legal; if all three are, it’s not.

Consideration + Prize = Contest. A person has to do something to win a prize, such as write the best essay or come up with the best slogan or best design; this is the “consideration” that is required of them. There is no “chance” since the “best” entry will win.

Chance + Prize = Sweepstakes. A person doesn’t really have to do anything—give consideration—to win the prize, because winning is based on chance, i.e. a random drawing. Courts have decided that sticking a stamp on an envelope or exerting a tiny bit of effort online is not consideration.

But you have to be careful not to require that people visit your community or perform in some other way—such as taking a tour or signing a lease—in order to qualify for a drawing, because that is consideration.

Chance (random drawing) + consideration (what you are requiring of a person) + prize = lottery.

Strapping actor + mystical horse + iced breakfast-pastry = happiness.

For more, check out Nadeen Green’s article, “Winning Ways to Hold Community Contests” in the May issue of units, which mails May 8.